Who will replace LT in San Diego?

February, 26, 2010
2/26/10
12:00
PM ET
Icon SMIThe Chargers need to find an answer at running back now that LaDainian Tomlinson is no longer with the team.
One of the top story lines of the NFL offseason will be what San Diego does at running back.

The Chargers probably will bring in at least two new running backs. The team released legend LaDainian Tomlinson this week after he showed -- in his ninth NFL season -- that he could no longer be a reliable lead running back. San Diego may need another tailback to replace change-of-pace standout Darren Sproles, who appears headed to free agency.

San Diego was 31st in rushing last season. It has to find a new spark. Watch for the Chargers -- who are at the NFL scouting combine this week working on improving the position -- to explore trades, free agency and the draft. Expect the draft to be a major option because the current list of available veteran talent is fairly unimpressive.

Here's a list of running backs who could be headed to San Diego:

Jahvid Best, California

How: Draft

The skinny: Best will be closely looked at by San Diego. If he checks out medically --- he had head and neck issues at the end of last season --- the dynamic Best should be available late in the first round. San Diego has the No. 28 pick and may be able to get in on Best. He is a fast, game-breaker type and would work well if San Diego grabbed a big back. But Best also could fit well if the Chargers kept Sproles.

Ahmad Bradshaw, New York Giants

How: Trade

The skinny: There has been some thought that the Giants could dangle either Bradshaw or Brandon Jacobs in a trade for San Diego cornerback Antonio Cromartie, who is being shopped. Bradshaw could be the more likely of the two to be dealt. He’d be a decent rotational option.

Bush

Bush

Reggie Bush, New Orleans

How: Free agency

The skinny: If Bush is cut, the only way San Diego would be interested in this native son is if Sproles left. This is a long shot.

Tashard Choice, Dallas:

How: Trade

The skinny: I get the feeling Choice is the Chargers' top choice among the veteran lot. San Diego inquired about the Cowboys’ backup in the Cromartie conversations. However, Dallas is reluctant to give up Choice. If that changes, San Diego may pounce on him.

Jonathan Dwyer, Georgia Tech

How: Draft

The skinny: Dwyer is a big, strong back. The combine is important for him. If he does well, he could sneak into the first round. If he is average, Dwyer could be had in the second or third round, where San Diego would consider him if it also gets a veteran back.

Toby Gerhart, Stanford

How: Draft

The skinny: Gerhart seems like a player who would intrigue San Diego general manager A.J. Smith. He was a very productive college player and has a big upside. He could be a steal in the third or fourth round. The Southern California native is big and rugged. If he and a veteran were brought in, and Sproles was kept, it could be an exciting time in San Diego.

Jones

Jones

Thomas Jones, New York Jets

How: Free agency

The skinny: Jones is not free yet, but he is expected to be cut. If so, put him at the top of San Diego’s veteran wish list. Even though he is 31 and past his prime, Jones is a tough runner who could help for a year or two. Add Jones with a rookie and Sproles, and San Diego’s run offense would surely improve in 2010.

Ryan Mathews, Fresno State

How: Draft

The skinny: Mathews had a productive season and is one to keep an eye on. He will surely be in San Diego’s mix along with Mississippi State’s Anthony Dixon and USC’s Joe McKnight.

Willie Parker, Pittsburgh

How: Free agency

The skinny: He shouldn’t be high on the list. Parker is on the decline, but there aren’t many high-quality running backs on the market yet. He could be a backup plan.

C.J. Spiller, Clemson

How: Draft

The skinny: He is expected to be the class of the rookie crop. If he does what is expected of him in the next two months, Spiller could be a top-15 pick, which would be difficult for San Diego to get to. If for some reason he fell into the 20s, expect the Chargers to make a draft-day run at this potential difference-maker.

Taylor

Taylor

Chester Taylor, Minnesota

How: Free agency

The skinny: Taylor is 30, but he has fairly low mileage. The most carries he's had in a season was in 2006 when he had 303 and ran for 1,216 yards. He hasn't had more than 160 carries in any of his other seven seasons. It's unclear how he would do if given the opportunity to carry the ball 20-25 times a game.

Pierre Thomas, New Orleans

How: Free agency

The skinny: The restricted free agent would be intriguing if he hit the open market. Thomas may not be the answer as the primary back, but he’d help as a rotational back.

LenDale White, Tennessee

How: Trade

The skinny: If the Titans were to let go of White at a decent price, San Diego might be tempted. He's big and strong and he can get the job done if not too much is asked of him. Add him to a backfield that included a rookie and Sproles and San Diego would be able to get by nicely.

Bill Williamson | email

ESPN Oakland Raiders reporter

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